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US Hostage Jill Carroll Released in Iraq


American journalist Jill Carroll has been released by her captors in Iraq, nearly three months after she was kidnapped at gunpoint.

Someone, it is not clear who, dropped Jill Carroll off on Thursday morning outside the Baghdad office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a moderate Sunni group.

In an interview with Baghdad television filmed at the party headquarters after her release, she said her captors treated her well.

"Very good treatment, very good treatment. I was kept in a very good, small safe place, a safe room. Nice furniture. They gave me clothing, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom when I wanted. Very good. Never hit me, never even threatened to hit me," she said.

In the video, Carroll is wearing a Muslim headscarf and appears animated, happy and healthy. She says she does not know where she was held and had been largely isolated from news of the outside world.

President Bush said he was "grateful" for Carroll's release. He said he is glad she is alive, speaking to reporters in Cancun, Mexico, where he is attending a two-day summit with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

Speaking in Berlin, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said Carroll's release is a "great delight and great relief."

"This is something that people across the world have worked for and prayed for, and I think we are all very pleased and happy to hear of her release," she said.

Carroll is reported to now be with friends and U.S. officials in the Green Zone. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says she has spoken to her family by telephone.

"As I said, she is in great spirit. I did spend some time with her. She is anxious to get home, and we will do all we can to help her get home as quickly as possible," he said.

Ambassador Khalilzad thanked the Iraqi leaders who worked for Jill Carroll's freedom, and he thanked the Iraqi Islamic Party for its help after her release.

The party's leader, Tariq Al-Hashemi, told reporters that party members were astonished when the kidnapped journalist showed up at their office.

"What happened today is that this lady arrived at the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic party without any advance notice," he said. "Our employees and brothers were surprised, that a woman is knocking on the door wearing Islamic attire. They thought she was a sister from the party's women's office until she revealed her identity."

He says she was holding a letter, written in Arabic, asking for the party's help in returning her to U.S. authorities.

Jill Carroll is a freelance reporter who was working for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper when she was abducted by a carload of gunmen in early January. Her interpreter, Allan Enwiyeh, was killed. Carroll spent 82 days as a hostage, and there has been no public word from her captors since a videotape broadcast in early February, in which they threatened to kill her before the end of the month.

The newspaper's editor, Richard Bergenheim, said her colleagues at the paper are overjoyed that she is free, and cannot wait to see her.

"As you can imagine, this is just one of the most exciting days for all of us," he said. "We were thrilled to hear that Jill Carroll has been released and will be back with her family."

The editor read a statement on behalf of the Carroll family.

"Our hearts are full. We are elated by Jill's safe release," he said. "We would like to thank all of the generous people around the world, who worked officially or unofficially, especially those who took personal risks to gain Jill's release."

Ambassador Khalilzad would give few details of the circumstances surrounding her release. When asked whether a ransom had been paid, he said nobody from the U.S. embassy had "entered into any arrangements with anyone."

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